Chelsea Green Publishing

Thinking in Systems

Pages:240 pages
Book Art:Black and white diagrams
Size: 6 x 9 inch
Publisher:Chelsea Green Publishing
Paperback: 9781603580557
Pub. Date December 03, 2008
eBook: 9781603581486
Pub. Date December 03, 2008

Thinking in Systems

A Primer

Availability: In Stock

Paperback

Available Date:
December 03, 2008

$19.95

Availability: In Stock

eBook

Available Date:
December 03, 2008

$19.95 $15.96

In the years following her role as the lead author of the international bestseller, Limits to Growth—the first book to show the consequences of unchecked growth on a finite planet— Donella Meadows remained a pioneer of environmental and social analysis until her untimely death in 2001.

Thinking in Systems, is a concise and crucial book offering insight for problem solving on scales ranging from the personal to the global. Edited by the Sustainability Institute’s Diana Wright, this essential primer brings systems thinking out of the realm of computers and equations and into the tangible world, showing readers how to develop the systems-thinking skills that thought leaders across the globe consider critical for 21st-century life.

Some of the biggest problems facing the world—war, hunger, poverty, and environmental degradation—are essentially system failures. They cannot be solved by fixing one piece in isolation from the others, because even seemingly minor details have enormous power to undermine the best efforts of too-narrow thinking.

While readers will learn the conceptual tools and methods of systems thinking, the heart of the book is grander than methodology. Donella Meadows was known as much for nurturing positive outcomes as she was for delving into the science behind global dilemmas. She reminds readers to pay attention to what is important, not just what is quantifiable, to stay humble, and to stay a learner.

In a world growing ever more complicated, crowded, and interdependent, Thinking in Systems helps readers avoid confusion and helplessness, the first step toward finding proactive and effective solutions.

REVIEWS AND PRAISE

"When I read Thinking in Systems I am reminded of the enormity of the gap between systemic thinkers and policy makers. If this book helps narrow the gap, it will be Dana's greatest contribution."--Lester Brown, founder and President, Earth Policy Institute

"Dana Meadows' exposition in this book exhibits a degree of clarity and simplicity that can only be attained by one who profoundly and honestly understands the subject at hand--in this case systems modeling. Many thanks to Diana Wright for bringing this extra legacy from Dana to us."--Herman Daly, Professor, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland at College Park

"Reading Thinking in Systems evokes the wisdom and even the voice of Dana Meadows. We are reminded of how she was not only one of the great systems thinkers, but also one of our greatest teachers. This is modestly called a primer, and indeed it is, but unlike most books with that title, this one quickly takes one from the elementary into deep systems thinking about issues as critical today as they were when Dana wrote these words. The discussion of oil use and the interaction of its extraction pattern with economic decision making should be required reading for all energy policy makers and energy company executives (as well as all informed citizens in a democracy). The fisheries case reminds us of how little any government or private actor has done to grasp the importance of takeout flows in determining stocks when the input flows are not within our control. The commentary on economics and, yes the need to consider limits, is a clear systems statement that clarifies a great deal of discussion that goes back to The Limits to Growth.

It is remarkable that Dana is able to explain with such clarity such systems concepts of stocks, flows, feedback, time delays, resilience, bounded rationality, and system boundaries and to illustrate each one with multiple informative examples. Her statement that goals that optimize subsystems will sub optimize the functioning of the total system, is truly profound. As the book moves from the 'mechanics' of systems dynamics to Dana's more philosophical perspective, we are treated to her inherent belief in human values that consider the good of all, and how much more effective considering the needs of others is likely to be in solving larger, complex problems. The universe and our society may be very complex and operate in counterintuitive, non-liner fashion, but following the insights of this book and applying them will provide for far more effective solutions to the challenges of a 7 billion person planet than current incremental, linear responses by governments, corporations and individuals."--Bill Moomaw, Professor of International Environmental Policy at the Fletcher School, Tufts University

"In Dana Meadows's brilliantly integrative worldview, everything causes everything else; cause and effect loop back on themselves. She was the clearest thinker and writer co-creating the art and science of systems dynamics, and Thinking in Systems distills her lifetime of wisdom. This clear, fun-to-read synthesis will help diverse readers everywhere to grasp and harness how our complex world really works."--Amory B. Lovins, Chairman and Chief Scientist, Rocky Mountain Institute

"Dana Meadows taught a generation of students, friends, and colleagues the art and science of thinking beyond conventional boundaries. For her systems thinking included the expected things like recognizing patterns, connections, leverage points, feedback loops and also the human qualities of judgment, foresight, and kindness. She was a teacher with insight and heart. This long anticipated book, the distillation of her life's work, is a gem."--David Orr, Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics, Oberlin College

"The publication of Thinking in Systems is a landmark. To live sustainably on our planet, we must learn to understand human-environment interactions as complex systems marked by the impact of human actions, the prominence of nonlinear change, the importance of initial conditions, and the significance of emergent properties. Dana Meadows' final contribution is the best and most accessible introduction to this way of thinking we have. This book is destined to shape our understanding of socio-ecological systems in the years to come in much the same way that Silent Spring taught us to understand the nature of ecosystems in the 1960s and 1970s."--Oran R. Young, Professor, Donald Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at University of California, Santa Barbara

"Thinking in Systems is required reading for anyone hoping to run a successful company, community, or country. Learning how to think in systems is now part of change-agent literacy. And this is the best book of its kind."--Hunter Lovins, founder and President of Natural Capital Solutions and coauthor of Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution

"Dana Meadows was one of the smartest people I ever knew, able to figure out the sensible answer to almost any problem. This book explains how she thought, and hence is of immense value to those of us who often wonder what she'd make of some new problem. A classic."--Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy

"An inspiring sequel to Dana Meadows' lifetime of seminal contributions to systems thinking, this highly accessible book should be read by everyone concerned with the world's future and how we can make it as good as it possibly can be."--Peter H. Raven, President, Missouri Botanical Garden

"Few matched Dana Meadows remarkable blend of eloquence and clarity in making systems thinking understandable. When Dana began her career, the field was esoteric and academic. Today it is the sine quo non for intelligent action in business and society. The publication of Meadows' previously unfinished manuscript is a gift for leaders of all sorts and at all levels."--Peter M. Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline and The Necessary Revolution

Publishers Weekly, Starred Review-
Just before her death, scientist, farmer and leading environmentalist Meadows (1941-2001) completed an updated, 30th anniversary edition of her influential 1972 environmental call to action, Limits to Growth, as well as a draft of this book, in which she explains the methodology-systems analysis-she used in her ground-breaking work, and how it can be implemented for large-scale and individual problem solving. With humorous and commonplace examples for difficult concepts such as a "reinforcing feedback loop," (the more one brother pushes, the more the other brother pushes back), negative feedback (as in thermostats), accounting for delayed response (like in maintaining store inventory), Meadows leads readers through the increasingly complex ways that feedback loops operate to create self-organizing systems, in nature ("from viruses to redwood trees") and human endeavor. Further, Meadows explicates methods for fixing systems that have gone haywire ("The world's leaders are correctly fixated on economic growth ...but they're pushing with all their might in the wrong direction"). An invaluable companion piece to Limits to Growth, this is also a useful standalone overview of systems-based problem solving, "a simple book about a complex world" graced by the wisdom of a profound thinker committed to "shaping a better future.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Donella Meadows

A woman whose pioneering work in the 1970s still makes front-page news, Donella Meadows was a scientist, author, teacher, and farmer widely considered ahead of her time. She was one of the world's foremost systems analysts and lead author of the influential Limits to Growth--the 1972 book on global trends in population, economics, and the environment that was translated into 28 languages and became an international bestseller. That book launched a worldwide debate on the earth's capacity to withstand constant human development and expansion. Twenty years later, she and co-authors Dennis Meadows and Jorgen Randers reported on their follow-up study in Beyond the Limits and a final revision of their research, Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update, was published in 2004.

Diana Wright

ALSO BY THIS AUTHOR

Learning Environment, Limits to Growth (CD-ROM)

Learning Environment, Limits to Growth (CD-ROM)

By Donella Meadows and Jorgen Randers and Dennis Meadows

This disc is intended for serious students of Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update. It permits users to reproduce and examine the details of the ten scenarios published in the book. The CD can be run on most Macintosh and PC operating systems. With it you will be able to:

  • Reproduce the three graphs for each of the scenarios as they appear in the book
  • Graph the eleven individual parameters for each scenario
  • Create comparative plots to examine the behavior of one parameter under the assumptions for two or more scenarios
  • Print out 47 key variables in five-year increments from 1900 to 2100 for any of the scenarios

The CD also includes:

  • Full model equations compatible with STELLA
  • Eighty-five JPEG files of the important book illustrations for use in lectures and classroom discussions.

Available in: CD-ROM

Read More

Learning Environment, Limits to Growth (CD-ROM)

Donella Meadows, Jorgen Randers, Dennis Meadows

CD-ROM $20.00

Limits to Growth

Limits to Growth

By Donella Meadows and Jorgen Randers and Dennis Meadows

In 1972, three scientists from MIT created a computer model that analyzed global resource consumption and production. Their results shocked the world and created stirring conversation about global 'overshoot,' or resource use beyond the carrying capacity of the planet. Now, preeminent environmental scientists Donnella Meadows, Jorgen Randers, and Dennis Meadows have teamed up again to update and expand their original findings in The Limits to Growth: The 30 Year Global Update.

Meadows, Randers, and Meadows are international environmental leaders recognized for their groundbreaking research into early signs of wear on the planet. Citing climate change as the most tangible example of our current overshoot, the scientists now provide us with an updated scenario and a plan to reduce our needs to meet the carrying capacity of the planet.

Over the past three decades, population growth and global warming have forged on with a striking semblance to the scenarios laid out by the World3 computer model in the original Limits to Growth. While Meadows, Randers, and Meadows do not make a practice of predicting future environmental degradation, they offer an analysis of present and future trends in resource use, and assess a variety of possible outcomes.

In many ways, the message contained in Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update is a warning. Overshoot cannot be sustained without collapse. But, as the authors are careful to point out, there is reason to believe that humanity can still reverse some of its damage to Earth if it takes appropriate measures to reduce inefficiency and waste.

Written in refreshingly accessible prose, Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update is a long anticipated revival of some of the original voices in the growing chorus of sustainability. Limits to Growth: The 30 Year Update is a work of stunning intelligence that will expose for humanity the hazy but critical line between human growth and human development.

Available in: Paperback, eBook

Read More

Limits to Growth

Donella Meadows, Jorgen Randers, Dennis Meadows

Paperback $22.50

Limits to Growth - The 30-Year Update (Book & CD-ROM Bundle)

Limits to Growth - The 30-Year Update (Book & CD-ROM Bundle)

By Donella Meadows and Jorgen Randers and Dennis Meadows

In 1972 four young scientists at MIT wrote a book called The Limits to Growth that shocked the world and became an international best-seller. Using the World3 computer model, the authors looked into the future and sounded an alarm, for the first time showing the consequences of unchecked growth on a finite planet. Their book gained worldwide attention and became the cornerstone of a global debate on how to achieve a sustainable future.

Twenty years later the authors wrote Beyond the Limits, a follow-up volume that showed humanity was already overshooting Earth's limits. Beyond the Limits again provoked a national debate and galvanized the scientific and environmental academics leaders to incorporate Limits to Growth into the core environmental studies curriculum.

Now Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update brings data on overshoot and global ecological collapse to the present moment. It provides a short course in the World3 computer model, types of growth, and the various kinds of overshoot likely to occur in the current century. While it remains to be seen whether public policy will respond effectively and in time to problems such as climate change, this book makes a compelling case for the vital need for a Sustainability Revolution.

The CD

This disc is intended for serious students of Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update. It permits users to reproduce and examine the details of the ten scenarios published in the book. The CD can be run on most Macintosh and PC operating systems. With it you will be able to:

  • Reproduce the three graphs for each of the scenarios as they appear in the book
  • Graph the eleven individual parameters for each scenario
  • Create comparative plots to examine the behavior of one parameter under the assumptions for two or more scenarios
  • Print out 47 key variables in five-year increments from 1900 to 2100 for any of the scenarios

 The CD also includes:

  • Full model equations compatible with STELLA
  • Eighty-five JPEG files of the important book illustrations for use in lectures and classroom discussions

Available in: Mixed media product

Read More

Limits to Growth - The 30-Year Update (Book & CD-ROM Bundle)

Donella Meadows, Jorgen Randers, Dennis Meadows

Mixed media product $42.50

AUTHOR VIDEOS

John Kress - Perspectives on Limits to Growth: Challenges to Building a Sustainable Planet

John Kress - Perspectives on Limits to Growth: Challenges to Building a Sustainable Planet

Growth vs. Development

Growth vs. Development

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

Gaviotas

Gaviotas

By Alan Weisman

Los Llanos—the rain-leached, eastern savannas of war-ravaged Colombia—are among the most brutal environments on Earth and an unlikely setting for one of the most hopeful environmental stories ever told. Here, in the late 1960s, a young Colombian development worker named Paolo Lugari wondered if the nearly uninhabited, infertile llanos could be made livable for his country’s growing population. He had no idea that nearly four decades later, his experiment would be one of the world’s most celebrated examples of sustainable living: a permanent village called Gaviotas.

In the absence of infrastructure, the first Gaviotans invented wind turbines to convert mild breezes into energy, hand pumps capable of tapping deep sources of water, and solar collectors efficient enough to heat and even sterilize drinking water under perennially cloudy llano skies. Over time, the Gaviotans’ experimentation has even restored an ecosystem: in the shelter of two million Caribbean pines planted as a source of renewable commercial resin, a primordial rain forest that once covered the llanos is unexpectedly reestablishing itself.

Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez has called Paolo Lugari “Inventor of the World.” Lugari himself has said that Gaviotas is not a utopia: “Utopia literally means ‘no place.’ We call Gaviotas a topia, because it’s real.”

Relive their story with this special 10th-anniversary edition of Gaviotas, complete with a new afterword by the author describing how Gaviotas has survived and progressed over the past decade.

Available in: Paperback, eBook

Read More

Gaviotas

Alan Weisman

Paperback $16.95

Genetic Roulette

Genetic Roulette

By Jeffrey M. Smith

Eating genetically modified food is gambling with every bite.

The biotech industry's claim that genetically modified (GM) foods are safe is shattered in this groundbreaking book. Sixty-five health risks of the foods that Americans eat every day are presented in easy-to-read two-page spreads. The left page is designed for the quick scanning reader; it includes bullets, illustrations, and quotes. The right side offers fully referenced text, describing both research studies and theoretical risks. The second half of Genetic Roulette shows how safety assessments on GM crops are not competent to identify the health problems presented in the first half. It also exposes how industry research is rigged to avoid finding problems.

This book, prepared in with input by more than 30 scientists, is for anyone wanting to understand GM technology, to learn how to protect themselves, or to share their concerns with others. It is presented in the clear, accessible style that made Jeffrey Smith's Seeds of Deception the world's best-selling book on genetically engineered foods. As the world's most complete reference on the health risks of GM foods, Genetic Roulette is also ideal for schools and libraries.

Available in: Hardcover

Read More

Genetic Roulette

Jeffrey M. Smith

Hardcover $27.95

Pinhook

Pinhook

By Janisse Ray

Janisse Ray, award-winning author of Ecology of a Cracker Childhood and Wild Card Quilt, writes an evocative paean to wildness and wilderness restoration with an extraordinary journey into southern Georgia's Pinhook Swamp.

Pinhook Swamp acts as a vital watershed and wildlife corridor, a link between the great southern wildernesses of Okefenokee Swamp and Osceola National Forest. Together Okefenokee, Osceola, and Pinhook form one of the largest expanse of protected wild land east of the Mississippi River. This is one of America's last truly wild places, and Pinhook takes us into its heart.

Ray comes to know Pinhook intimately as she joins the fight to protect it, spending the night in the swamp, tasting honey made from its flowers, tracking wildlife, and talking to others about their relationship with the swamp. Ray sees Pinhook through the eyes of the people who live there--naturalists, beekeepers, homesteaders, hunters, and locals at the country store. In lyrical, down-home prose, she draws together the swamp's need for restoration and the human desire for wholeness and wildness in our own lives and landscapes.

Available in: Paperback

Read More

Pinhook

Janisse Ray

Paperback $15.95

Sacred Earth Celebrations, 2nd Edition

Sacred Earth Celebrations, 2nd Edition

By Glennie Kindred

Sacred Earth Celebrations is the revised and updated version of Glennie Kindred’s bestselling, classic book, Sacred Celebrations. It is an uplifting and inspiring source book for everyone seeking to celebrate and honor the changing rhythms and seasons of the Earth and her cycles. Uplifting and inspiring, it explores the eight Celtic festivals, how they were celebrated and understood in the past, the underlying changing energy of the Earth, and the ways we may use this energy to create meaningful celebrations for today to deepen our connection to the Earth and our fellow human beings.

Glennie offers a vibrant, contemporary approach and encourages us, whether celebrating on our own or with family and friends, to follow our own inspired interpretations of each festival. She helps us touch the sacred, share and participate in the power of nature, express our feelings, and find ways to focus on spiritual regeneration and healing.

Sacred Earth Celebrations deepens our understanding of the five elements, the laws of manifestation, the rhythms of the Moon, Earth energies and sacred landscape, inner journeying, and meditation. It explores ways to create sacred space both inside and outside, celebrations for children, crafts, the use of song and dance, garden and land projects, building a sweat lodge and labyrinths, and many other creative activities to help us connect to the moment, to the Earth, and to each other.

Available in: Paperback

Read More

Sacred Earth Celebrations, 2nd Edition

Glennie Kindred

Paperback $15.95